More Positive Together is designed to help Lancashire residents who are furthest from the employment market lead active lives and improve their employment prospects. The European Social Fund has extended funding to allow the project to continue until the end of December 2021, by which time the overall target is to have supported 4,068 individuals.
Since its inception in December 2016, the project, which is led by Active Lancashire, has provided more than 20,000 hours of mentoring support. To date, 663 candidates have become employed or self-employed, with a further 710 engaged in studying or training to achieve a qualification.
The project is a collaboration between social housing providers, local authorities and charities in Lancashire including Newground Together, part of Together Housing Group.
Together Housing owns and manages around 7,800 homes in Blackburn with Darwen, the borough with the highest unemployment rate in Lancashire. Blackburn is also is listed as the 14th most deprived area out of 317 districts nationwide.
Newground Together alone has supported over 900 people in Blackburn with Darwen on their journey to the labour market, including helping over 100 into work and over 268 into education and training.
Nic McGrath, Newground Together’s Community Programmes’ Director, said: “The project reaches out to residents in the most deprived neighbourhoods, many of whom face multiple and complex obstacles to employment and progression including mental and physical health problems, a history of offending, poverty and debt.
“Our team of mentors offer flexible one-to-one support to break down these barriers, for example we have run courses which include childcare for single parents. We have supported people with mental health problems, funding a private clinical psychologist so they can be seen the same week rather than go on the NHS waiting list, which can be up to nine months. For over 30% of our customers, English is not their first language but in addition to bi–lingual staff, we use the latest translation technology to make our courses accessible.
“For others, the setting of an academic institution like a college can be intimidating so our courses are delivered at our community centres. Our mentors will arrange to meet our customers in familiar surroundings where they feel comfortable. This could be in their own home, at a café or even walking along the canal rather than somewhere formal like the job centre.”
After being made redundant, Bryan* fell into debt and became depressed. This was further hindered by caring for his niece, an addict who was also in debt. He was struggling to make ends meet and afraid to answer the door as he had bailiffs chasing him.
His mentor arranged a Debt Relief Order, meaning he’ll be debt free next year. With a massive sense of relief, he then worked with an Employment Advisor who helped him secure a job.
Bryan said: “It was nice for someone to take an interest and treat me as an individual, not just a number. I felt a little bit better after every appointment. They made me feel pride in myself and realise that someone wanted to help me get out of a black hole. It’s a life saver”.
* Name changed to project the client’s identity